What is life?

There is no clear definition of life. However, living organisms have some designated characteristic that separates them from non-living organisms. For an organism to be termed as living, it must be able to reproduce, grow, metabolize, and respond (Ma, 2016). For example, whale sperm, amoeba, fertilized chicken egg, are living organisms while Prion, HIV virus, and eggs from grocery stores are among the specimen considered non-living. It means that if an organism does not exhibit the characteristic, then it is said to have no life. The paper respond to aspects around life as an attribute of living organism.

What is life?

Life is an attribute of a living organism, which involves the ability to grow, metabolize, respond, and reproduce (Ma, 2016). The following is a table that classified six specimens as living or non-living organisms.

SpecimensDescriptionExplanation or reason
Whale spermLiving organismJust like any cell in the main body, Whale sperm is alive. It can reproduce and perform various operations of a living organism
AmoebaLiving organismAmoeba is one of the simplest living things that can react to its environment, grow, develop, and reproduce.
PrionNon-living organismPrions are metabolically inactive and unable to reproduce outside a host.
Fertilized chicken eggLiving organismFertilized chicken egg is a living organism since it forms a zygote cell. However, it is inactive until it is hatched.
Egg from a grocery storeNon-living organismIt is non-living because it unfertilized hence does not form a zygote cell.
HIV virusNon-living organismIt is a non-living thing because they are not made out of a cell. They are unable to grow or make their energy.

Unobservable attributes in living organism

The attributes of living things that are not easily observable are regulation and the ability to produce energy (Ma, 2016). To begin with, regulation is the process required to coordinate internal operations like an organ system that carries oxygen and remove waste from the body. The other process is energy production within a living organism. The system needs a constant input of energy to maintain their physical and chemical organization. A living organism can use nutrients to produce energy.

Processes that stops when an organism dies

There exist various processes that occur when an organism is alive but stops when it is dead. These processes are a reaction to stimuli, adaptability, growth, regulation, processing of energy, movement, digestion, and respiration (Ma, 2016). Notably, the above processes occur when an organism is alive but stops immediately it dies. A living organism can grow and develop, but the process stops instantly when it dies. Thus, it means that a dead organism is unable to perform the processes listed.

Non-living organisms that possesses some attributes of living organisms

Yes, a non-living thing, such as hair on the human head, possesses some characteristics of living things. Based on my research, once the hair is above the surface of the skin, the cells in the strand of the hair is no longer alive. Thus, the hair on the human head, just like any other on the surface of the body, contains dead cells. Even though hair from a human head is non-living, it has some of the attributes of a living organism. First, hair consists of cells, just like living organisms. One of the main attributes of a living organism is that they consist of one or more cells. Second, hair can also grow. A living organism can grow and develop.

Difference between plants and animals

There are differences between plants and animals in their lifestyle. First, almost all plants are stationary. Plants often remain in one position all their lives, whereas animals can move from one region to another. Second, plants can manufacture their food with the aid of sunlight, air, and water. The ability of plants to make their food makes them autotrophs, whereas animals are unable to make their food; hence they rely on plants for food (Chuine & Régnière, 2017). Third, in terms of respiration, plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen to the atmosphere, whereas animals take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Thus, plants assist in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. They help in the purification of air in the atmosphere since an increase in carbon dioxide in the air can cause serious environmental problems.

Based on sense, plants have a very basic ability to sense. They lack properly structured sensory systems. On the other hand, animals have a highly developed sensory and nervous system. Animals seem to have a complex sensory system that helps them integrate into the environment. In terms of a cell, plants have a cell wall made up of cellulose.  However, the animal cell does not have a cell wall. Another variation is their organelles that are specialized to perform specific functions. Plants cells have chloroplasts, whereas animals do not have (Chuine & Régnière, 2017). Chloroplasts help plants in making their food through a process of photosynthesis. Thus, because animals cannot make their food, they do not require chloroplast.

What is dormant?

Dormant is a situation where organisms control their metabolic activities because of various environmental stress. There are instances where an organism is subjected to environmental stress causing disturbances. It can be a period where growth and development are inhibited in plants because of unfavorable environmental factors like lack of water and high temperature, among others (Walsh, 2015). In animals, a state of dormancy is expressed by hibernation to reduce their metabolic activities to retain resources until environmental conditions become favorable. Environmental conditions such as temperature, and drought, among others, result in a state of dormancy is organisms.

Fossilized Martian bacteria

The researchers claimed that fossilized remains identified in the meteorite known as Allen Hills 84001 were extraterrestrial and has a biological origin (Beech, 2017). They deduced that the fossil remains are evidence to show that life existed on planet mars. The organisms identified during the research does not fit the definition of life. Living organisms can grow, metabolize, respond, and reproduce. The fossil remains found does not have the attribute of living organisms because there was no offspring as a sign of reproduction.


The existing definition and classification of organisms do not draw a clear line of distinction. However, attributes such as the ability to grow, reproduce, and response helps in the classification of organisms. Some of the living organism that exhibit the above attributes can be classified further into plants and animals. One of the main differences between plants and animals is the production of food. Plants make their food while animals do not. Animals usually obtain their food from plants. Thus, it is important to understand the attributes of organisms.

Reference list

Beech, M. (2017). It’sa Far Flung Life. The Pillars of Creation (pp. 235-256). Springer, Cham.

Chuine, I., & Régnière, J. (2017). Process-based models of phenology for plants and animals. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 48, 159-182.

Ma, W. (2016). The essence of life. Biology direct, 11(1), 49.

Walsh, D. M. (2015). Organisms, agency, and evolution. Cambridge University Press.

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